Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A (Short) Book At Bedtime

I have written before that my recent eye problems have all but ruined my love of reading. Any more than a 30 minute session (sometimes less) now leads to painful eye strain and (even more) blurred vision, which can last for days. Reading a good novel is fairly useless now, as it just takes so long to do it that I've forgotten the early parts of the story before I reach the end! So these days I try to look out for collections of short stories, anecdotes etc etc (suggestions always welcome)... My trusty love of comics has also been a a great help - things that I can read for half an hour or so and perhaps not pick up again for a while without it mattering (although I do so miss getting involved in a nice, long complex novel).

I'm doing well at the moment, and have two books 'on the go'... The first is 'Awkward Situations For Men' by Danny Wallace. A great collection of tales of varying woe and embarrassment from Danny's life to date, like...

Inadvertently being rude about a friends baby... that perennial fear of not being able to 'go' when standing at a urinal. Upped several notches in Danny's story, due to another man arriving at the next urinal who also couldn't 'go'. Turning the whole thing into a game of chess as each man tried to work out the next move... calling a female shop assistant 'fella'... and the dread of every man, finding yourself walking behind a woman on her own, late at night (argghh!). It's a thoroughly entertaining read, and none of the stories are more than 4 or 5 pages long.

The other book is by someone I spent a good half of my life trying to avoid....

A few months back, I Should Be Working did a post about a radio documentary presented by long time nemesis Michael Portillo. In the post, she had to begrudgingly admit that 'Polly' had come over pretty well, and I think was in danger of admitting that he "seemed alright"! I can relate to this... If there is one smug, smarmy (and dare I say 'punchable') face from the 1980s, then for me it would have to be Gyles Brandreth. I loathed this man, his 'wacky' jumpers and his unhealthy obsession with teddy bears. I found him so oily and nauseating, that I would immediately have to change channels whenever his self-satisfied, grinning mush came on the screen (no remote control in those days either! I'd physically get up and turn the bugger off!). A 5 day a week stint on Countdown was particularly irksome, where in charge of 'dictionary corner' he appeared even more smug (if that was possible). In the 1990's he entered the world of politics, but annoyingly still turned up a little too regularly on TV for my liking.

Although I never thought about him, I'm guessing he must have fallen out of favour in the 2000's, as I don't recall seeing much of him in the last decade or so... only resurfacing in the last couple of years as an irregular regular on BBC's The One Show.... where against all odds I have found myself warm to the man. I almost always find his features interesting, and they are often on subjects that appeal (gems have included pieces on old British Comics, the Beano's 70th birthday, British cinema, historic London landmarks and architecture, early 1900 amusement arcade machines and a fascinating piece on how the town of Whitby deals with the continual Dracula link).

Far from being smarmy and smug, I now find his presenting quite fun and engaging, and it has intrigued me how he has managed to change so much... that was until Mrs P recently informed me that she STILL finds him as equally annoying today as she did back in the 80s! So perhaps it wasn't him who changed at all??!

Anyway, Gyles Brandreth has been an obsessive diary writer since the age of 11, and when I heard he was releasing a book containing the best bits of a 50 year period (1950 - 2000) I was keen to pick it up. It's a huge book, and at 700+ pages this will no doubt take me years to get through, but that doesn't bother me (well, maybe it does a bit!). I'm still wading through the school years at present, and whilst entertaining, I must admit I am secretly desperate for him to hurry up and get famous, so that I can get stuck in to some of the much promised anecdotes and juicy tittle-tattle from his celebrity encounters!

I haven't been able to resist a crafty flick through the latter pages, and have already stumbled on some real classics:-

  • December 1980 whilst script writing with Frankie Howard... just a few seconds after locking the door and pocketing the key "we don't want intruders", Frankie was suddenly taken by a terrible, erm, 'groin attack'. He desperately struggled to reach for a jar of 'ointment', then dropped his trousers, and thrust his 'bits' and the aforementioned ointment into Brandreth's face saying "you know what to do... rub it in... treat it like a muscle". Funnily enough, Gyles didn't know what to do, and instead chose to wander over to the window to look outside! The 'attack' passed quickly after this, and Howard sheepishly pulled up his trousers, and continued working on the script as though nothing had happened! Interestingly, I spotted another entry almost 10 years later where Gyles has been talking to Max Bygraves, who tells him that Frankie tried the exact same trick on him too! "he's doing it all the time" says Max "and he always goes for married guys".

  • In April 1994, Gyles and Glenda Jackson invited Sir John Gielgud to celebrate his 90th birthday over lunch at the House of Commons. Delighted that he had accepted, Gyles thanked Sir John for sharing such a special day with them. "oh I'm delighted to have been asked" came the reply "all my real friends are dead"!

  • A beautiful glimpse of the wit of Noel Coward whilst watching Shakespeare's harrowing tragedy 'Titus Andronicus'. Vivien Leigh was staring as Lavinda, who in the play, has her hands and tongue cut off to stop her from revealing the name of her attackers. At one point Lavinda holds a stick between what remains of her arms, to try and scrawl the names of her assailants in the sand. Alas the grip was not quite right, and the stick slips and cartwheels across the stage... "tut tut, butter stumps" chuckled Coward.

But the childhood days are also enjoyable in their own way, and a little unsettling at times too.

  • In February 1961, the old man who works in the boiler room at his school gives a 12 year old Gyles four hand written notebooks (400 pages in total). In each book the man had written out "wise and interesting things" (poems, history, geological tables etc etc). In his diary Brandreth comments "these four books are the boiler man's most treasured possessions. He has spent years writing them, and now he has given them to me". There is a lovely footnote at the bottom of the page from the 21st Century Gyles, to say that these books still remain on his writing table to this day.

As with all good published diaries, this book contains all the entries as they were originally written. No re-writes to incorporate a big dose of hindsight, no tweaks to make up for schoolboy silliness or bad grammar. In the early pages there are a number of initials and codewords, all used to ensure private information remained that way. Fortunately, footnotes have been added to the bottom of most of the pages to explain any confusing entries.... 'LCL' for example notes that Gyles has secretly tried to purchase a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover!

  • Gyles is only aged 11 when a letter 'X' starts to appear at the end of some of his daily entries in January 1960. A glance at the footnotes shows that this was actually code to note that one of his teachers (Mr Harkness) had kissed him. These X's continue to appear with alarming regularity, until May 1961, when the X is replaced by a 'T' ("Mr Harkness touched me"). Then in June 1961 there is an entry that reads "Mr Warren the games master asked me about Mr Harkness. He asked lots of questions. Lots. I said nothing". There is no further mention of Mr Harkness, but I hope he got his come uppance.

It's shaping up to be an interesting read, hopefully with many more showbiz gems to come... I might blog any more winners, but it may not be for a year or two! (sigh..)

Anyone else done a complete 180 degree turnaround with bands\celebs they used to loath?

VIDEOS (all from the One Show)

Gyles Brandreth on the closure of Walthamstow dog track:

Gyles Brandreth on Mechanical Memories Museum in Brighton (the UK's oldest established vintage penny arcade):

Gyles Brandreth on The Carry On films:


Saturday, 18 September 2010

Jobs For The Boy

Have just watched actor Michael Sheen once again do a sterling impression of Tony Blair, in tonight's airing of 'The Special Relationship'....

It's unusual for an actor to portray so many 'celeb' characters. There was David Frost...

then there was Brian Clough...

Oh and don't forget his mesmerising Kenneth Williams...

And whilst he perhaps wouldn't be the first person that pops into your head when you think of these people, in every case he's managed to completely nail them.

So surely he's got to be keeping his fingers crossed that they make a film out of the BP Oil crisis... will they even bother looking anywhere else for someone to play (ex) CEO Tony Hayward??!

Tony Hayward

Tony Hayward

Not Tony Hayward


Monday, 13 September 2010

Podrophenia - Show 10... Before They Were Famous

Can it really be nearly 6 months since Mondo and I recorded our last installment of Podrophenia?? Well, your luck was never going to hold out forever, and we're back (finally) with number ten!

The theme for this outing is 'Before They Were Famous'. A selection of original recordings that have largely been forgotten... all overtaken by successful cover versions that people now assume are the originals. As well as hearing 10 tunes during the hour, there's the very latest from the Podrophenia news desk, and find out which celeb has been ripping us off!

Here's just some of the musicians involved in the next hour (either directly or indirectly), and in keeping with the theme of the show, I've including young pictures of them all... before they were famous! Can you guess them all?

You can listen to it here:

Or download it here:
Podrophenia Show 10

You can also pick it up on iTunes here:
Podrophenia 10 on iTunes


Friday, 10 September 2010

Happy Blogday!

I was chuffed when I reached a years blogging... I was obviously speechless when I made it to two years as I didn't blog it (well, actually I didn't realise until a few weeks after), but today is the third birthday of 'Start The Revolution Without Me'.

I wouldn't have put much money on me surviving 3 years, but have to say I'm still as enthusiastic as ever, and have genuinely enjoyed putting my old stuff and nonsense up on here. And as a bonus, I've met some great bloggin' buddies along the way too - quite literally this year, having attended a blog hook up in London at the beginning of the year.

When I started the blog I was adamant that it would be completely random, just writing about anything I fancied at that moment in time. But looking back over the three years, there are some very obvious themes running through the 186 posts to date... Music, Comics, Books, Films, Local History, Gigging, Becoming a Dad, Sightseeing and Bettie Page! And although I've always steered clear of making this a 'me, me, me' blog, I guess those themes are actually a fair representation of me as a person. Looking over these posts, it's actually a pretty good document of what's been going on in my life during that time, plotting events, days out, shows, holidays and general things I was obviously buzzin' on at that moment in time.... things that I may have even forgotten about had I not blogged it. Maybe one day my son might read through some of these posts, and perhaps it will give him an idea of what made his old man tick.

Thanks to everyone who bothers to read, and extra thanks to those who bother to comment, much appreciated...


Sunday, 5 September 2010

I've Seen The Future... and it Kicked Ass!

Regulars will know by now that I'm a hopeless comic addict. I've posted before about the genuine worries that go through my head when a Hollywood film adaptation of a much loved comic book is announced. All that film companies are interested in is making money, and so what if they ruin a good character\story in the process?? The movie adaptation of Kick Ass involved a rare trip to the cinema for me when it came out earlier this year, I just couldn't wait to see what they had done with it. Tomorrow it comes out on DVD.

Kick Ass is an unusual movie adaptation, because the film was 'in the can' before the comic book had been completed! After just 2 issues, director and producer Matthew Vaughn (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake) contacted writer Mark Millar to say he wanted to turn it into a film. By the time issue 4 came out, work had commenced on the film script. From then on Millar was splitting his time between completing the comic, and providing Vaughn with the future story lines. If you are familiar with the comic, then you can pretty much spot the exact point where the film overtook it. The film adaptation of the first few issues is so close to the original, but as the film continues, there are a number of fairly significant differences. This is not a criticism, I guess Millar was giving Vaughn the story as it was in his mind at that point, but by the time he was getting it down in comic form his thoughts had matured and changed somewhat. Thankfully the changes worked great in the film (bar one or two little personal niggles), and resulted in one of the best film romps I've seen in years.

I won't give away any of the twists and turns, but briefly this is the ultimate antidote to all those macho big budget superhero films of the last decade or so (Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Hulk etc etc). Dave Lizewski is a geeky schoolboy, obsessed with comic books. He can't understand why nobody has ever tried to be a superhero for real, so he decides to give it a go. But without any 'super powers', he is promptly put in hospital for a number of months (ahh, so that's why nobody has done it before!). Undeterred, he goes back out on the street, but soon discovers he is now not the only real life super hero on the block.

The original first series of Kick Ass (8 issue) are fabulous... un-put-downable in fact, and the film is the perfect companion. A real roller coaster from start to finish, full of self-knowing comedy and Tarantino style violence (occasionally both at the same time!). And this is another significant difference form your average comic book movie... Back in the dark days, comics really were just for kids. But in the 80's they grew up, thanks to the arrival of people like Alan Moore, and stories for adults started to emerge. Enter a (American import) comic shop today and the majority of titles will have a "for mature readers only" warning slapped on the cover. But with the movie adaptations, we have still been in the equivalent period of those pre-1980's comics. Sure there have been big grossing films of all the biggies, Spidey, Batman, Iron Man, Ghost Rider, Superman, X-men, Hulk etc, but essentially they have all been fairly 'kid-friendly'. The film studios are no fools, they know their target audience, and ensure the content of the films pick up the suitable rating.... until now!

You have to take your hat off to Matthew Vaughn. After just 2 issues of Kick Ass the comic he had the complete vision, and refused to let anyone change it or water it down. So much so that one by one, every single major film company turned him down... some even saying it was the worst idea they had ever seen. But he remained determined to get the film made, so in 2007 Vaughn turned to his friends, and got enough people to back his idea to enable him to self-finance the movie (£50 million!). And so the indie comic book became an indie film.... and with it came complete control. This is the exact film that Vaughn wanted to make, no concessions made for any squeamish corp-heads, he even had complete control of all the marketing and trailers.

When Vaughn screened some early footage at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, he could not believe the reaction, the fans went completely crazy for it. As if by magic, as soon as the major film companies caught wind of it, they were all calling Vaughn to see if they could get involved after all. You can imagine the reply they got! Matthew Vaughn has produced what is essentially the first 'mature-viewer' superhero film, and I wouldn't be surprised if it starts a trend... just like Alan Moore's Watchmen comic did back in the 1980's.

Although the film is set in downtown New York, and has the look and feel of an 'all American' flick, there is actually more than a large slice of UK talent about Kick Ass:
  • Of course Mark Millar wrote the original comic book, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn wrote the film screenplay and Vaughn directed and produced it...
  • Aaron Johnson plays the title roll, Mark Strong does a wonderful job as the arch-baddie, and there's some great support from the likes of Dexter Fletcher, Jason Flemyng, Tamer Hassan, Tim Plester, Craig Ferguson and more.
  • A number of scenes were shot in the UK too.... London, Elstree, Pinewood, and what wasn't done here was mostly filmed in Canada!

Ignore the moaning minnies saying this film is corrupting our children.... This is an adult film, made for adults. Yes it's violent, and out of context the idea of Hit-Girl - a mass murdering ultra-violent crime fighting 13 year old girl (who swears like a trooper!) - does sound a little unconformable... (actually, count your blessings, she was only 10 in the book!). But within the boundaries of the film it works a treat (especially when hacking down the bad guys to the theme from the Banana Splits!), and the violence she inflicts is so over the top that you really can't take it seriously.... It's more 'Itchy and Scratchy' than Deathwish. In fact Hit-Girl steals the show, and the performance by Chloe Moretz is simply stunning. Add to this a great little turn out from Nicolas Cage (for once!), camping it up like there's no tomorrow as Hit Girl's somewhat deranged father.

Far from the 'meathead' no-brainer, the tabloids would have you believe, this is a gritty, intelligent, highly entertaining film, with much more to say than any other costumed caper.... and with great use of Sparks in the soundtrack too, what isn't there to like??!

Easily the best superhero film to date. Kick Ass is out on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow.


All 8 issues of the first series of Kick Ass the comic are now compiled as a graphic novel, and over at Amazon you can pick it up for the frankly crazy price of a fiver! (free postage too!)

The second series of the Kick Ass comic is being published exclusively in the new British comic CLiNT. Issue 1 out now!

Kick Ass - Movie Trailer: